Addressing the Emirati students gathered at the Mohamed Bin Zayed Majlis for Future Generations, Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, came straight to the point. The nation, he told them, "is betting on you". Looking at the sea of 2,000 earnest young faces at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, exuding confidence and ambition and listening in rapt attention, it seemed like a safe bet. The purpose of this week's two-day majlis was to challenge students to think about the skills and mindset that will be needed to help the UAE navigate the uncharted waters of a post-oil world. Here, listening to a rosta of inspiring speakers from today's leadership, were gathered the future ministers, diplomats, scientists, investors, entrepreneurs and captains of industry who will steer the ship of state on the next leg of its historic voyage.
The annual majlis is just part of the Government’s ongoing commitment to “inspire, energise and connect those responsible for shaping the UAE’s future”. In 2016 the cabinet appointed its youngest member, 22-year-old Shamma Al Mazrui, as Minister of State for Youth Affairs. She also heads up the Emirates Youth Council, whose 13 members advise the government on youth issues. Earlier this year the Government founded the Federal Youth Authority, charged with encouraging young Emiratis to become involved with sectors vital to the nation’s future development. Local Youth Councils have also been set up in each of the seven emirates, while the UAE Youth Ambassadors Programme allows ambitious young Emiratis to travel 0and benefit from immersive cultural, political and business experiences.
All these initiatives, and more besides, show that the government not only recognises that tomorrow is in the hands of the youth of today, but is also doing everything in its power to ensure that they are ready to seize the responsibility and opportunities that lie ahead. Unlike that many nations, the UAE's leadership engages seriously and honestly with its youth. This week's majlis was an opportunity to see the future, gathered together in one space – the very manifestation of what Sheikh Zayed always said was the nation's "most important natural resource". It was an impressive, and reassuring sight.